“Six,” she answered.
“All right; there were only two,” he said, convinced and satisfied.
He led her along a dozen steps or so, and then halted.
“Turn this way,” swinging her about; “do not open thy eyes till I tell thee. There—now!”
For an instant the darkness seemed impenetrable; but there was enough of a faint light, rather like pale belated moonbeams than the brightness of the sun, to enable her to read her own name carved upon the smooth wall of rock.
“Ah! little deceiver, when did you do this?” she asked, touched by his gallantry.
“Do this! Why, Pepeeta, I did not do it,” he answered, surprised and taken back by her misunderstanding.
“You did not do it?” she asked, astonished in her turn. “Who did it if you did not?”
“Why—can’t thee guess?” he asked.
And then it slowly dawned upon her that it was the work of her lover, done in those days when he wandered about the country restless and tormented by his passion. His own dear hand had traced those letters on the rock!
She kissed them, and burst into tears.
This was an indescribable shock to the child, who had anticipated a result so different, and he sprang to her side, embraced her in his young arms and cried:
“What is the matter, Pepeeta? I did not mean to make thee sad; I meant to make thee happy! Oh, do not cry!”
“You have made me a thousand times glad, my dear boy,” she said, kissing him gratefully. “You could not in any other way in the world give me such happiness as this. But did you not know that we can cry because we are glad as well as because we are sad?”
“I have never heard of that,” he answered wonderingly.
She did not reply, for her attention reverted to the letters on the wall and she stood feeding her hungry eyes upon that indubitable proof of the devotion of her lover.
The child’s instinct taught him the sacredness of the privacy of grief and love. He freed himself from her embrace, slipped out of the cave and left her alone. She laid her cheek against the rude letters, patted them with her hand, and kissed them again and again. It was bliss to know that she had inspired this passion, although it was agony to know that it was only a memory.
The remembrance of feasts once eaten is not only no solace to physical hunger, but adds unmitigated torment to it. It is different with the hunger of the heart, which finds a melancholy alleviation in feeding upon those shadows which reality has left. The food is bitter-sweet and the alleviation is not satisfaction, but neither is it starvation! Probably a real interview with a living, present lover, would not have given to Pepeeta that intense, though poignant, happiness which transfigured her face when she came forth into the daylight world, and which subdued and softened the noisy welcome of the boy.